Hurricanes feel good grabbing ACC crown
MAR 09, 2013 6:34p ET
“When I went to Florida, that’s the reason I went there,” said Kadji, who transferred to Miami following his sophomore season.
“Isn’t it better here than doing it at Florida?” Hurricanes teammate Julian Gamble asked.
“It’s way better,” a smiling Kadji said. “You’re right.”
Said the man who traded in one “football school” for another to win a basketball championship.
Miami, owner of a rich pigskin tradition but still seeking its first ACC gridiron crown, is No. 1 in basketball. The Hurricanes captured the program’s first outright conference title by defeating Clemson 62-49 on Saturday.
The Hurricanes will begin play in the ACC tournament quarterfinals at noon on Friday in Greensboro, N.C.
Many fans in the sellout BankUnited Center crowd Saturday remained for a postgame scene that included falling confetti, songs — Queen’s “We Are The Champions” and Drake’s “Started From The Bottom” — a video and the traditional cutting down of the nets.
“The scissors we had might be a little dull. That’s the same scissors we use to cut our tape up everyday,” Gamble said. “We’ll try to have some sharper ones when we get to Greensboro.”
“That’s not the last net I plan on cutting down,” senior guard Trey McKinney Jones said.
The celebration actually had been planned for three nights earlier, when a widespread pregame feeling of anticipation at the BUC dissipated when the 'Canes lost to underdog Georgia Tech on a tip-in at the buzzer.
On Saturday, the pregame atmosphere was more guarded optimism before the meeting with Clemson, which had lost five straight and eight of nine. It was senior day, and sophomore point guard Shane Larkin sat as coach Jim Larranaga started five seniors.
Clemson freshman Jordan Roper scored all of his team’s 12 points before Larkin was inserted during a timeout at the 14:18 mark with Clemson ahead 12-11.
“When he was on the bench to start the game, I looked down and he said, 'I’m ready to go, let me guard Roper,’ ” Larranaga said. “I’m very coachable. So I put Shane in, and he guarded Roper.”
Roper did not score another point the rest of the game.
Still, Clemson hung tough and stayed within at least four points until 13:55 remained in the game. That’s when Kadji nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner to build a 34-28 UM advantage.
The Tigers never got closer.
“We ran an offense in the second half we haven’t run in probably six weeks,” Larranaga said. “We were very successful with a lot of ball screens, so we kept doing it. But Clemson is one of those teams that’s good at guarding the ball screen because they double up on Shane.
“The guys really shared the ball, and that’s how Kenny ended up getting those 3s.”
Kadji finished with 23 points, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range, to help Miami head into the postseason off a victory instead of having dropped four of five, had they lost.
“It’s very important to win this game,” Kadji said. “We were trying to get our confidence back up after losing to Duke and Georgia Tech. We just wanted to come out and play well, share the ball and play better defense.”
Mission accomplished. Clemson shot 38.1 percent in the second half and 40 percent for the game.
Although Miami shared the 2000 Big East regular-season title with Syracuse, sole possession was so much better.
“It’s surreal. It’s hard to describe,” Gamble said. “This is something we’ve all dreamt about.”
Charlie McCarthy can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @mccarthy_chas .
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